Posts tagged Kazakhstan
Pablo Diago chasing ATM lead in Tengri!

The 4th Tengri Ultra Trail in Kazakhstan sees a record number of participants with over 1000 runners spread out over three race distances. It is testimony to the growth of trail running also here, even when it is still a minority of people who dares to tackle the ultra trail race of 70 km. The event takes place on Monday - a public holiday in Kazkahstan. Looking at the start list we also see an increased number of nationalities, including Japan, China, Singapore, Mongolia, Tajikistan and Thailand. Most runners from Kazahstan, Eastern Russia, Kyrgyzstan are perhaps not so well-known to the general Asian audience, but one name stands out: Pablo Diago Gonzales. The Singapore-based Spaniard is having a busy early season campaign and Tengri Ultra Trail will already be his 5th points race in 2018. The number 4 of the 2017 Asia Trail Master Championship had an injury-caused DNF at the 9 Dragons in Hong Kong, but accumulated 1225 points with a 4th place at Rizal Mountain Run (PHI), 2nd at Beach Bunch Trail Challenge 50 (BRU) and 3rd two weeks ago at Mount Apo SkyRace (PHI). A three-time race winner in 2017, can he score his first victory of the season in Kazakhstan? In any case, Pablo Diago only needs a result inside the top 15 and 260 points to take over the points lead in the ATM Championship from Harry Jones. He would be the first top runner to score points in 4 races this season. 

The start and finish of the Tengri Ultra Trail is at Tamgaly Tas, a UNESCO World Heritage SIte along the mighty Ili River that flows into Xinjiang, China. Connectivity is virtually non-existent at the place and all participants will be camping at the riverside on Sunday night. We will update with news from the field when possible. 

Pablo Diago Gonzales keeps busy: TUT will be his 4th points race of the season!

Pablo Diago Gonzales keeps busy: TUT will be his 4th points race of the season!

Akmaral Meirman is Talking Trail Running

On 8 May one of the more adventurous trail races on the Asia Trail Master series' calendar takes place in Kazakhstan for the second consecutive year. The Tengri Ultra Trail is rapidly becoming a cult event, given its compulsory camping alongside the mighty Ili River (due to the remoteness and relative inaccessibility of the race area), but also for the cultural context. Tamgaly Tas is just 120 km outside of Almaty, but there is no wifi or regular mobile signal. There are caves with prehistoric drawings, open air BBQ, on race day you run through grasslands and canyons with the snowcapped Tian Shan mountain range on the horizon. A genuine outdoor event. Last year, the race was won by local runners who impressed with their speed. Akmaral Meirman was the fastest woman, on what was then the 56km race (this year the course has been upgraded to 70km). With a view to next month's second edition of TUT, we spoke with the enthusiastic Akmaral, who turns out to be as passionate a runner you can possibly meet! Akmaral Meirman is Talking Trail Running this week. 

By K. Van de Velde

Akmaral's running playlist! 

Akmaral's running playlist! 

Q: You are currently living in Shymkent, which is the third biggest city in Kazakhstan, but I think totally unknown for most people outside of Kazakhstan. Could you tell us a bit more about your home region?

AM: Shymkent is in the southern region of my country and well known in neighboring areas as one of the unique ethnic places to live in and visit. I think it's also the warmest place in Kazakhstan given both its altitude and climate.

Were you also born and did you grow up in Shymkent?

I was born in Shymkent and still live here. I love this city and my family don't want to move anywhere else.

Was running part of your upbringing as a child and teenager?

In my childhood there were not many museums or theaters to go to, so I liked to run on the track in the stadium near our home. I chose it as a hobby then and it's still my favorite.

What is the favourite sport in your home region, and do you have any sport idols? 

Unfortunately, sport in our region is not so popular, just boxing. I do not see people running or biking as common as in Europe, or even Almaty by comparison. But I hope one day it will happen:-)! I do have two idols in the running world - Marat Zhylanbaev, he is from Kazakhstan and I am very proud of him. Secondly, Scott Jurec inspired me to run my first marathon after I read his book Eat and Run. 

Astana and Almaty already have marathon events. Do you see potential for an international running event in Shymkent?

I know Astana and Almaty already have marathons, but it believe in Shymkent is a better place for trail running. We have really beautiful places here to go and run in. 

You are also often taking part in road marathons, in fact. Even in Europe. What is your fastest time on the road?

I did take part in Frankfurt marathon twice, in Paris and also in Vienna now. Fastest was 3.21 last year in Paris, but now I want to beat my record in Vienna (...and Akmaral did, she finished in a splendid time of 3:07:50!

Last year you won the 1st edition of the Tengri Ultra Trail. Was this your first trail running race?

Tengri was my first trail and I really liked it, that's why I come back this year. It  probably won't be easy to run 2 road marathons and 1 ultra in one month, as I am also running the Almaty Marathon at the end of this month.  But Tengri Ultra,  I can't miss this event, it's really close to my heart and I can't wait to take part in it again! 

Do you like trail more than road running?

I do like both trail and road races. Running is my passion, regardless on which terrain. 

Akmaral won the women's Tengri Ultra Trail last year. 

Akmaral won the women's Tengri Ultra Trail last year. 

Are you part of a special running team, professionally, or are you just traveling to races as a hobby?

Now I am traveling just to races as a hobby, but who knows, maybe one day it can become my profession:-)

What do you do for a living?

I have a husband and 3 children, and I enjoy their their endless support, that gives me power to live, work and move on. I have a family restaurant and work as a President of our Federation of Athletics.

What is the running community in Kazakhstan like? In Almaty, it seems many people have started running or other sports.

Yes, in Almaty leisure sports is booming, but people in my region do not yet run much, but let's see what can happen in a few years!

Do you feel the so-called " runner's high " ?

Running for me is not like a drug. It's like my friend, who is always with me. With its own character. Sometimes sad or happy. Sometimes we don't want to see each other but also we can't live without each other:-)

How much do you train? Do you have a coach or do you use a running coaching app?

I train with coach now for 1,5 years, trying to improve my speed. So six times a week , twice a day, 20-40 km every day, that's my training programme. Of course,  including intervals, tempo runs and other types of workouts. Now I want to work more on speed rather than just run marathons as usual long runs. This or next year my goal is to run a 24 hour race. And of course,  trails on the Asia Trail Master series can be part of my programme as well. With pleasure!

What was your worst running experience so far?

My worst experience was…hmmm,  there is none, really. Every race is close to my heart and I love them all. I choose races by places I have never been before, by people I want to see there and experience that I want to gain.

Do you pay a lot of attention to your running shoes and gear?

I do pay attention, especially to my running shoes, and it's always Adidas :-)

In your opinion, what are the biggest issues facing the sport of trail running in the near future? What is it you would not like to happen?

I really like trails because people take part in it as a part of their life and as a hobby. Trail runners are usually friendly and open, and I want it to continue this way

Do you think you can repeat your victory in the TUT next month, now that the race distance is also longer (70km)?

I did not know what to expect last year, as it was my very first time, but there was no any regret, that's why I come back and hope to run better than last year even if now it's 70 km. Will see !

 GOOD LUCK in any case!

Race registrations for Tengri Ultra Trail are open

Following the success of the first edition, the Tengri Ultra Trail returns to Tamgaly Tas in Kazakhstan on 8 May 2016 . One of the more remote races on our calendar, but therefore a unique chance for international runners to visit and enjoy the hospitality of the Kazakh people. The race course has been redesigned partially and the longest A race will measure 70 km in length. 

The inaugural edition in 2015 saw over 300 participants, amongst which a number of international runners from France, USA, Hong Kong, China and Belgium, spread out over three distances. There are good air connections to Almaty from various Asian neighbouring countries. Direct flights from Beijing, Seoul and Hong Kong are  a given. 

It is now possible to sign up for the 2016 edition via our online registration form. To find out more basic details about the event, you can check our cover page. Please note that this page will be further updated in January as information comes in from the organisation committee in Almaty.  For any specific queries, you can contact us at 

Exciting trail running debut in Kazakhstan

The 1st edition of the Tengri Ultra Trail in Tamgaly Tas, approx 120km from Almaty in eastern Kazakhstan lived up to its pre-race hype. The 300 participants enjoyed a gorgeous day on the varied but tougher-than-expected course, and are already looking forward to more. Local hero George Shejko was the fastest man on the 55km distance in 5:37:15. A member of the national team of Kazakhstan in olympic (speed) walking, Shejko discovered the sport of trail running with this race as also for him it was a new experience. The women's race was won by Akmaral Meirman in 6:48:31. 

The whole event was a true outdoor experience as participants camped in tents along the clean Ili River at Tamgaly Tas, a place where one can also do rock climbing. The long distance race consisted of two laps of 27,5km featuring a variety of terrain, including pristine grassland, steep and bushy hills and an impressive but technical and rocky gorge.  It was the best possible introduction to trail running for local athletes. A select group of non-Kazakhs who had made their way to the event spoke of a lifetime experience. 

Men 55 km:
1.Shejko Georgiy 1989 05:37:15
2. Galimbekov Ilyas 1995 06:13:42
3. Denis Vlasov 1983 06:22:44
Women 55 km:
1.Meirman Akmaral 1983 06:48:31
2. Teich Elizabeth 1991 07:41:55
3.Mergenbaeva Diana 1988 09:03:55

The race is set to continue next year and registrations are likely to open already at the end of this year. 

The Asia Trail Master ranking has been updated with the results of the Tengri Ultra Trail. There are no major changes at the front as Xie Zhangrong (men) and Yuen Kit Shan (women) lead. George Shejko enters in 13th place and Akmaral Meirman in 11th. 

Score points and discover Kazakhstan at the Tengri Ultra Trail

We are happy to announce our latest entry onto this year's Asia Trail Master calendar: the Tengri Ultra Trail near Almaty in Kazakhstan. The 50km and 25km long races take place in a truly magnificent setting called Tamgaly Tas in a valley of the river Ili. As the experienced local organisers write on their website: Tengri Ultra Trail is a race for people who love freedom and vast expanses of land, run up hills all along green fields, dodge through rocky canyons, and breathe pure prairie air.

The event takes place on 10 May, but participants are required to check in at the remote starting venue, approx 100km from Almaty City, already on Saturday the 9th from 15:00 onwards. Out there in Tamgaly Tas runners are sleeping in tents for the night, increasing the outdoor adventure appeal of the event. 

Leisure sports is developing in Kazakhstan, also in the context of the 2022 Olympic Winter Games bid by Almaty City (for which Beijing is the only competitor left). Kazakhstan remains relatively unknown but the large country has plenty to offer for the outdoor enthusiast. The Tengri Ultra Trail race is open to everybody, but participants need to be aware of the cut-off times. Participants who run the 50km course should reach the finish within 10 hours, whereas those doing 25km have 6 hours of time to complete the course. Finishers on both race distances will score points for the Asia Trail Master ranking. 

You can sign up easily for the Tengri Ultra Trail via our website. Your place is confirmed as soon as we receive payment of the race fee (USD 50 or USD 35). Busses can be arranged between Almaty and the race venue. Please indicate in the online form if you require a bus seat. We recommend you to bring your own camping gear for the Saturday night, although tents and sleeping bags can be requested on a first-come-first-serve basis. 

Please note that most nationalities require a visa to enter Kazakhstan. However, some countries' citizens do not (e.g. Hong Kong, Russia, South Korea,...). In addition, there is an on-going 'no visa' pilot programme that includes citizens of Malaysia, Japan, plenty of western EU countries and the USA. To find a quick overview of these countries, please check wikipedia. Obviously, please doublecheck your visa requirements for Kazakhstan in your country of residence. 

Almaty is the international air gateway to the Tengri Ultra Trail and worth of a few days of extra stay. 

Our staff at Kuai Sports Promotions is happy to answer any questions on this new event on the Asia Trail Master circuit. 

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